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Jonathan Stock discusses has technology helped your presentation?

More often than not presenters use bullets, transitions, and effects in an attempt to "Wow" us with their message. But do they help? Does the use of technology support and strengthen the value of your content, or does it merely shoot it full of holes leaving your audience at a massacre?




Presentation Article and Advice about Creating Content

Has technology helped your presentation?

Jonathan Stock, Presentation Consultant, 123PPT.com

Oh for the simple life!

It seems like only yesterday that I was participating in audiences looking at people drawing on acetate on overhead projects. Fingers, thumbs, smudge marks, drawings made upside down, and frantic circles and arrows being drawn over the top of slides prepared from Microsoft Word was about as animated as things got.

It was an easy life. I'd just sit there. Mainly bored, rarely entertained, barely motivated, and often thought about all the important things that I could be doing.

Of course in reality, it's been quite some time since the clattering of the slide projector and the obligatory "Sorry but the carousel seems to be stuck", boomed across rooms of half sleeping corpses.


A new king in town

In just a blink of an eye this "Digital Revolution" took over. Gone were the slides, and the comments, replaced instead by the Word documents now put on screen and every line entering as a bullet point. The pages of text, which were inexorably laborious to read previously, were now fit for nursery "read-a-longs", and kindergartens. Zombie audiences jumped from their tombs, "Wow!" They cried, so this is digital media?

Well as mind numbing as it was to read a page of text printed on acetate, merely projecting it from a computer, and having every line slide in from the left took a thousand times longer to read. And whist the novelty of new media, as it was called then swept the globe like a plague of locusts on a hot summer. The early pioneers of digital presentations did more for testing the limits of human patience than they did for the evolution of communication. For what wasn't flying around the screen, zooming in and out, sliding up and down, had a bullet in front of it or a checkerboard on top of it.

But what about the new product range? Or what about this years Spring collection? Who cared? Who needed to care? As long as things moved, and as long as things were modern, wasn't that the point?


Hello...is there anybody out there?

Somehow, I can't help thinking that every time my phone rings, what happened to the days when I had a home phone and an office phone? In between, I'm traveling, or in meetings. People could call me in the evening when I'm at home, or call me during the day at the office. Modern communication has it now so that people can call me when I'm answering the call of nature.

But of course, even then that's not enough. For just after we all got used to carrying a round a cell phone and learned to resist the urge of checking it every ten seconds to see if someone has called. Or grabbing it every time a ring tune blurbs out somewhere making us think "It's me...It must be mine..Someone must be calling me!" The cell phone stopped being a phone. It became a PDA, or a camera, or an MP3 player, or a Video receiver, or Radio, a Calendar, a games machine, in fact it's become so much that it's almost impossible to answer the phone without turning off the TV.

Yet somewhere haven't the technical entrepreneurs of modern communication forgotten a very simple and basic thing? ...Something called the point?

The point being that technology should be used to help us communicate not strangle our brains with bullet points and flying pixels. Just as the point of a cell phone is to help us stay in touch without the fear of accidentally launching a game of solitaire by mistake or turn the dish washer on because that is blue tooth as well.


Communicate not confuse

It's strange that since we no longer refer to new media as new media but refer to it instead as digital media. We still think about creating presentations in a very old media way. I still go to presentations and view pages of text merely broken down into bullets. Or sit in the audience listening to a presenter as their voice suddenly rises, and you feel something is about to happen, and it does. They have managed to assign an action setting to three key words, and they are invisible until they hit a key or click their remote and then suddenly "Wow" the words fly in from the left.

Impressive things those keywords, but is this really so different from a flip board?

I mean do we really have to use technology to tell us this?

Creating content for a presentation should be a response to several variables.
  1. What am I trying to tell my audience?
  2. Who are my audience?
  3. How large is my audience?
  4. Is what I show my audience on screen any different to what I read my audience?
  5. What do I expect from my audience? Motivation? Action? Sympathy? Understanding?
  6. How does the content and context of my speech relate to these questions?
  7. How does the use of digital media help me answer these questions?
  8. If the use of digital media does not assist in achieving these goals of communication am I able to stand in front of my audience alone and communicate directly to them?

Simply...smarter

At a restaurant last week, I noticed a waiter chatting to a young lady. As I sat waiting for my guest to arrive, I over heard their conversation. "Would you like some water?" the waiter asked, "Yes please", the young lady, replied. "Would you like water with a twist of lime? A twist of lemon? Would you like water from Peru? From the French Alps? Water tapped from the Scottish highlands? From the Japanese springs of Tsukubai?" The young lady looked puzzled. She was clearly overwhelmed with the selection of water that the restaurant had to offer. As she looked at the waiter she asked, "Do you have water tapped from a glacier from the North Pole?" The waiter was extremely excited, "But of course!", he replied. "Why?", she asked.

In a world of gadgets and gizmos, of mobile this and portable that. Of Pentiums, processors and Gigabytes of this and Megahertz of that, do you ever really ask yourself the question why? Why do I need this? Will technology help my presentation? If so how?

It's easy to get throw effects and transitions all over your content. But does it change its value? Does it make it more important? Does it support what you are trying to communicate?

Not every audience expects water from the Alps, they are often simply thirsty. In your next presentation try to remember that it is much better to quench your audiences thirst than it is to make them work up a sweat trying to understand and decipher what your message is.

Create your content clearly and deliberately and make it easy on your audience to understand what you are trying to tell them. Remember what might seem novel or "cool" to you, may not to your audience. And although you may fear that you presentation appears simple, remember that a director receives recognition or wins an Oscar not for the effects used in their film, but for the way in which they are able to tell the story and communicate its message. After all, if every film were a Sci-fi, would theaters still sell as many tickets?
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